Cats are natural predators that evolved hunting live animals in the wild, but can they eat raw chicken?
While it can be safe under the right circumstances, feeding your cat raw meat as raw cat food comes with risks.
Humans don’t eat raw chicken and opt for cooked chicken because of the possibility of parasites and harmful bacteria, which pose threats to cats, too.
If you’re considering a raw diet for your cat, you should read up on the risks associated with it.
Can Cats Eat Raw Chicken?
Cats should not eat raw chicken.
Because it is typically processed at large-scale factories, chicken meat can contain harmful bacteria like E. coli and salmonella.
Cooked chicken is safer because it doesn’t contain these.
The CDC estimates that every one in 25 containers of store-bought chicken contain these bacteria.
Since this is the most common source of raw chicken provided to cats, there’s a significant chance of bacterial exposure.
Can Cats Eat Raw Chicken Liver?
Another chicken part some cat lovers feed their pets is chicken liver.
Feeding raw chicken liver carries the same risks as any other raw chicken meat, so many people who prepare raw cat food usually cook the liver first.
Raw or cooked, chicken liver contains large doses of vitamin A.
While a vital nutrient, too much can be a bad thing as a single piece of chicken liver contains more than 200% of the recommended daily allowance.
That’s a lot for a human, and you’re much bigger than your cat.
Too much vitamin A can result in vitamin A toxicity, which can cause developmental delays in kittens and weight loss, constipation, and weakness in cats of any age.
Can Cats Eat Raw Chicken Bones?
A bacteria-free option is chicken bones, which stimulates play activity and provides nutritional marrow for your cat.
A raw bone isn’t without risk, though, as serious health issues can arise if your cat swallows bone fragments, which can cause intestinal blockage.
Cooking the raw chicken bone isn’t the solution, as the baking process can weaken the bone, making it brittle and raising the risk of it splintering and harming your cat’s teeth, mouth, and intestinal tract.
Can Cats Eat Raw Chicken Necks?
The chicken neck may be the least risky chicken part for cats to eat raw.
Feeding your cat an uncooked chicken neck carries the same risks as feeding any raw chicken, but the risk of intestinal issues from bones isn’t there, and the cartilage in the neck is safer to eat than bones.
Do Cats Like the Taste of Raw Chicken?
Cats are obligate carnivores and meat is a requirement for their diet.
While cats’ systems evolved to live on a raw meat diet, the meat they get in nature hasn’t been processed or otherwise handled in a factory where bacteria and parasites can be introduced.
However, cats do seem to enjoy the taste of raw chicken, which means keeping them from eating it when it’s available can be difficult.
What Are the Risks of Feeding Cats Raw Chicken?
Infections and other illnesses can arise in your cat from raw chicken.
While not every piece of raw chicken contains bacteria, there’s a significant chance they do.
Since salmonella can only be removed by cooking your meat above 150 F, there is no way to guarantee that factory-sourced raw chicken will be safe for your cat.
Parasites live at the expense of their hosts and can remain in the meat after processing.
Roundworms infect most cats’ intestinal tract at some point in their lives but rarely pose a health risk.
In large numbers, however, they can harm and even kill your cat, especially a kitten.
Hookworms and tapeworms can also cause problems, though these are less common.
Bacterial infections can damage both you and your cat.
These include cryptosporidia and toxoplasma.
The former causes diarrhea in healthy cats and seriously endangers older cats.
The latter is why pregnant women aren’t supposed to interact with cat litter, as toxoplasmosis easily jumps to humans.
There is also the staphylococcus bacterium, which can cause staph infection.
3. GI Distress
Everyone, even cats, gets a tummy ache now and then.
However, gastric distress in your cat, especially if it’s ongoing, can indicate something more serious.
If you suspect your cat has gotten into some raw chicken and experiences diarrhea and vomiting, you may be looking at signs of illness from that chicken.
They may also display suppressed appetite and weight loss.
GI distress can cause cats to stop eating, which can cause a host of problems including long-term damage to your cat’s organs and systems.
You should take your cat to a vet if you notice symptoms lasting more than a day.
4. System Illness
Systemic illness in cats often manifests in their eyes, which means two things:
- Irregularities in your cat’s eyes can be a tip-off that a parasitic or bacterial infection has taken root, and
- Your cat’s eyesight is at risk.
If you don’t catch these systemic illnesses soon, lasting damage can occur.
Is Raw Chicken Good for Cats?
While your cat can consume raw meat, it comes with risks that aren’t present in formulated cat food.
Even food from the wild is safer, as the parasites and other microscopic critters in farmed and processed poultry aren’t in the starlings that divebomb your back porch.
If you insist on feeding your cat raw chicken, keep the following in mind:
1. Avoid Preservatives
If you have a chicken coop in your backyard, designate one of them for your cat.
This meat will not have been processed and will be much safer.
Of course, it will be even safer to butcher the chicken for your cat to avoid bone splintering or fracturing.
Chemicals used in preservatives can potentially be harmful in addition to the risks posed by bacteria in uncooked chicken.
2. Amino Acids
Amino acids help many bodily functions work and are abundant in raw chicken, though cooking reduces the number of amino acids by orders of magnitude.
However, the risks of feeding your cat raw chicken don’t outweigh the benefits of added amino acids.
With a balanced diet, your cat will get all the amino acids she needs.
3. Low in Carbs
Raw chicken doesn’t contain carbohydrates, which is good news as cats need a low-carb diet.
The added carbs they might get from cat food instead of raw chicken are not harmful to them.
4. Improved Hydration
Raw chicken contains more water than cooked, so if your cat is struggling to consume water from a bowl, this could be one way to up their daily intake.
Is Raw Chicken Used in Commercial Cat Food?
Some commercial cat food contains raw chicken, though often it has been frozen and then dried or freeze-dried.
This can cut down on the possibility of biological contaminants.
What Should You Do if Your Cat Accidentally Ate Raw Chicken?
There’s a possibility your cat might steal a bite of raw chicken from the cutting board.
Don’t panic: follow these steps instead.
Observe the Cat’s Behavior
Keep an eye on her for signs of gastric distress— vomiting, diarrhea, lethargy, new litter box behaviors, etc.
You’ll need to take action if they last more than a day, or if she stops eating entirely.
Contact the Vet
Rather than trying to get your cat to throw up on your own, take your cat to the vet if they are exhibiting symptoms.
It’s better to be safe than sorry with regards to their health.
How to Prevent Cats From Eating Raw Chicken By Accident
Cats are naturally wilful creatures that still aren’t fully domesticated.
You’ll need to take proactive measures to ensure they don’t get into something harmful.
Know Where Your Cat is When You’re Cooking
This isn’t the easiest task, especially if your cat is sneaky and quiet.
Try to be aware of where your cat is in the room when you’re cooking.
Some people keep cats off their kitchen counters.
If you allow yours access, keep her away from the raw chicken before, during, and after you’ve worked on it.
Don’t Step Away From the Raw Chicken
Even the best-trained cat is unlikely to pass up a free meal.
Don’t leave them unattended with raw meat!
If you have to leave the kitchen, take your cat with you.
How Much Raw Chicken Can a Cat Eat?
Your cat shouldn’t eat more than two percent of her body weight in raw chicken and not more than a couple of times a week; for example, if your cat weighs six pounds, she shouldn’t have more than two ounces of raw chicken.
How to Safely Prepare Raw Chicken for Cats
Rinse the chicken thoroughly at the very least. If there are E. coli on the meat, this won’t help, but rinsing it can cleanse it of surface bacteria.
Some cat owners also freeze the chicken first or even freeze-dry it to eliminate other bacteria and parasites.
Your cat needs meat because she’s an obligate carnivore.
However, this isn’t carte blanche to feed her whatever raw meat you find at the grocery store.
Raw chicken can contain parasites and bacteria that can harm your cat’s digestive systems, and some of those issues can prove fatal.
Not every piece of raw chicken is dangerous, but one in twenty-five is.
If you choose to feed your cat raw chicken, do so sparingly, and clean the poultry as best you can before serving it.